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Your Guide To Dark Wood: Types, Uses, Design Tips & Inspiration

Bring style, richness and modernism to your next interior project. Welcome to the dark side — here’s everything you need to know about dark wood.

Wood is an incredible thing. As well as being practical and highly functional, it comes in a mind-boggling, wide-ranging palette of beautiful colours, textures, grains and hues.

So, let’s visit the dark side. Whether you’re looking at a traditional or contemporary interior or exterior project, dark-tone timbers can provide a classy, stylish touch to any space.

Why is dark wood popular, what types are there and how can I use it?

Why choose dark wood for your next project?

Many people are aware of different types of pale wood and how they can be used to create a bright, airy, Scandi-inspired space.

As undeniably beautiful as light-coloured woods are, sometimes you need a dash of darkness. An element of enigma. This is where the immense impact and intrigue of darker wood can be invoked.

Beauty and class

As you’ll probably know, no two pieces of wood are identical. With distinctive markings, outstanding colours and alluring tones, a dark wood is as unique as any — and, like a fine wine, they get better with age. No repeat patterns here!

Dark wood can provide a luxury, bold and dramatic feel to any room. Many species are celebrated for the opulence they so effortlessly provide. A room that makes widespread use of dark wood and intricate, detailed carved furniture and traditional décor can provide a classical sense of luxury and mystique.

But dark wood species can also easily be adapted into a modern design, popularly for flooring, to build a contemporary, minimalist design, or make a bold statement in a lighter, Scandi-inspired setting.

Wenge or American Black Walnut, for example, with their incredibly sleek, eye-catching aesthetic and gorgeous texture, are popular in modern luxury designs for flooring, doors and furniture.

A beautiful dark wood kitchen interior.

Design impact

Darker wood can easily be incorporated sparingly to provide contrast and a talking point, creating a centrepiece in the room. Or perhaps weave a story into your space with the use of a darker exotic hardwood, perhaps like Wenge, hailing from the tropical coast of Africa.

Whether inside or outside space, dark wood gives you the freedom to make a statement. One increasingly-popular dark wood product is charred timber, popularly used for cladding.

Dark wood doesn’t have to be introduced sparingly for the oomph factor, of course — it can be used as part of a darker, elegant and minimalist industrial theme.

Making a bold, luxurious statement with dark wood.
An industrial-style kitchen making use of dark wood.

Functional and versatile

Did you know that dark hardwood flooring is actually usually warmer underfoot? As well as this, dark-tone timbers don’t naturally show dirt as easily and are resistant to wear and tear — making them very child and pet friendly indeed.

But in addition to being physically practical, dark wood is visually versatile. It doesn’t matter whether you’re creating a modern, minimalist space or a grand, opulent traditional setting — dark wood is dynamic and right at home in almost any design.

It’s surprisingly difficult to ‘go wrong’ with darker wood, contrary to what many may think!

Top-notch strength

Many of the trees which produce naturally dark woods like Wenge and Walnut are extremely slow-growing, and as a result boast remarkable natural strength. Needless to say, this makes them the ideal type of timber for any hard-wearing indoor surface, like flooring or furniture.

Interestingly, although their uses are most popularly indoors, most popular dark timbers are also extreme durable outdoors, naturally resisting fungal and insect attack.

A stunning interior boasting dark wood furniture.

Dark wood types and species

There are a range of popular, beautiful dark-tone woods that architects, designers and home improvers value for the effortless elegance, richness and sleekness they can provide to any interior.

American Black Walnut

Example of walnut wood.

If you’re looking for a timeless, popular darker timber, with Walnut, you’ve got it.

Boasting a breathtaking, rich colour and stunning grain pattern, Walnut’s outstanding decorative appearance is almost unrivalled — sure to impress and lend your project all the illustriousness of a quality dark wood.

The gorgeous chocolate brown colour and contrasting creamy hues and colour variations — sometimes with a tinge of purple — always catch the eye, as does the elegant grain which can vary from fine to highly figured.

It is very popular for solid wood flooring in a modern, luxury setting, particularly for upmarket London flats, but works excellently for furniture like doors, chairs, tables, drawers, sideboards, countertops and more.

If you’re after a versatile, beautiful, quality hardwood that’s on the darker side, look no further than Walnut.

Wenge

Example of wenge wood.

By combining alluring darkness with the luxury and performance qualities of tropical African hardwood, Wenge is your ticket to making a big statement. This is a gorgeous species that’s synonymous with mystique.

An incredibly durable and hard-wearing species, closer inspection of Wenge often reveals hints of caramel providing subtle contrast to the dark brown, almost black colour — sure to pique the interest.

Like Walnut, Wenge is gaining extraordinary appreciation amongst designers. Wenge solid wood flooring, in particular, is sought after for contemporary townhouse design, but is also a species that works excellently for furniture and doors in almost any setting.

Utile

Example of utile wood.

Striking timbers like Wenge or Walnut aren’t for everyone; it’s possible to go a little darker than popular species like Cedar and Oak without choosing sometimes that’s too dark!

Another gorgeous wood hailing from the far-flung forests of tropical Africa, Utile draws much comparison to Mahogany with its dark reddish-brown colour that deepens and intensifies with age, coupled with remarkable physical strength.

The cherry tones and hues that characterise Utile provide your project with a more sombre feel without being too garish or in-your-face.

As a result of its slow-growing nature, the timber harvested from Utile trees has got durability and versatility in abundance. Utile is most commonly used for flooring, doors, countertops, furniture, window frames and interior and exterior joinery.

To give a shout out to another gorgeous African hardwood, Zebrano attracts a lot of interest for its quirky, prized darker streaked markings, although the timber itself can often be paler in colour.

Example of zebrano wood.
Example of charred wood cladding.

Whilst not so much a species but a style, we couldn’t help but mention charred wood. It’s hot at the moment; cladding in this style creates a highly impactful, eye-catching option to furnish any interior or exterior space.

Available in light, medium or heavily charred, this style gives you the freedom to choose a ‘darkness’ that perfectly captures your architectural vision, achieving that emphatic, unique and trendy burned aesthetic.

It follows the ancient Japanese wood preservation technique of Yakisugi; the surface is charred without the entire piece of wood being combusted. As well as providing it with a distinct look, the carbonisation actually makes the wood waterproof, insect resistant and fire retardant!

If you’re looking to make a dark wood statement — particularly for the outdoors — charred timber is guaranteed to lend any project a highly-unique, daring touch.

Darkening light woods

Bear in mind, too, that almost any light-coloured timber species (like Cedar, Ash or Oak) can be stained to look darker with several coats of stain or paint, in accordance with the product manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure to test your stain on a small part first, of course.

For the best effect, we’d always recommend going for the real deal, however — a naturally dark species like Walnut or Wenge!

Styling a space with dark wood: design tips & inspiration

Interior room design with dark wood is actually quite simple: for a modern look, contrast is key.

Dark wood doors, floors and furniture create a bold, stylish, minimalist backdrop which balances well with white walls and ceilings, pale wood furniture, or bright-coloured soft furnishings like rugs, curtains and bedding. Your dark wood should work as an accent piece, not be disguised.

Your dark-light contrasting space can also be complemented by the occasional splash of colour. This could mean an eye-catching, quirky statement piece, like a colourful armchair or a tall potted plant.

White accents — skirting, window frames and door frames — can accentuate your dark wood and achieve that perfect balance. Bronze elements, such as picture frames, can really work well with a dark wood theme.

Great use of contrast in incorporating dark woods.
A stunning dark wood cabinet giving a sense of allure and richness.

Dark woods, particularly flooring, slot seamlessly into an industrial interior design, pairing well with the use of dark metals that you see frequently within this modern style.

An industrial-style bedroom making use of dark woods.
An industrial-style kitchen making use of darker timber.

To deviate from the contemporary, dark timber furniture that is carved in a more decorative style can easily impart a classical, opulent aesthetic.

Carved darker wood can provide a more opulent, classic feel.

As we mentioned, the contrast is key — even in Scandi-style interiors, there’s still usually room for a darker statement piece.

So, whether dark wood flooring, doors, a desk, coffee table, sideboard, dining table or something else, these types of wood can also be used very effectively within a more airy, lighter setting.

A kitchen making use of dark wood and contrasting lighter surroundings.
A good use of contrast with dark wood.

Your dark wood will always benefit from being regularly dusted, wiped down and occasionally varnished or oiled — this can help their grains and textures pop, or provide a different feel to the touch.

Looking to join the dark side?

If you’ve got a special project in mind, you’ll probably be after some top-notch, alluring dark wood for sale. You’re in the right place.

From Wenge to Walnut, whether a floor, a door or some stunning sawn timber, we’re a leading UK importer and stockist of a wide range of gorgeous, dynamic dark timbers and timber products.

If you’re looking to get started on a project or would like some more project advice, get in touch with our team today.

Start your dark wood project today

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